Identifying Formal and Informal Influence in Technology Adoption with Network Externalities
Firms introducing network technologies (whose benefits depend on who installs the technology) need to understand which user characteristics confer the greatest network benefits on other potential adopters. To examine which adopter characteristics matter, I use the introduction of a video-messaging technology in an investment bank. I use data on its 2,118 employees, their adoption decisions and their 2.4 million subsequent calls. The video-messaging technology can also be used to watch TV. Exogenous shocks to the benefits of watching TV are used to identify the causal (network) externality of one individual user's adoption on others' adoption decisions. I allow this network externality to vary in size with a variety of measures of informal and formal influence. I find that adoption by either managers or workers in "boundary spanner" positions has a large impact on the adoption decisions of employees who wish to communicate with them. Adoption by ordinary workers has a negligible impact. This suggests that firms should target those who derive their informal influence from occupying key boundary-spanning positions in communication networks, in addition to those with sources of formal influence, when launching a new network technology.
Cambridge, MA; Alfred P. Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT Sloan School of Management Working Paper;4687-08
Networks, Network Externalities, Technology Management